Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm not your damn scapegoat

I know, I know, I shouldn't even pay attention to what's going on at WorldNutDaily, but a listener forwarded this to us and it pisses me off.

A New York man is linking the suicide of his 22-year-old son, a military veteran who had bright prospects in college, to the anti-Christian book "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins after a college professor challenged the son to read it.

"Three people told us he had taken a biology class and was doing well in it, but other students and the professor were really challenging my son, his faith. They didn't like him as a Republican, as a Christian, and as a conservative who believed in intelligent design," the grief-stricken father, Keith Kilgore, told WND about his son, Jesse.

A few things about this story. First of all, no persuasive case has been made that his son killed himself because he read "The God Delusion." His dad says he did, sure, but as I once pointed out in a post titled "Anatomy of a propaganda attack," the fact of these stories tend to be extremely malleable and gradually change as more information is discovered. As far as I can tell, there hasn't even been a suicide note yet, and there are all kinds of things that could have contributed to the suicide, starting with the volatile dad.

Which is my other point -- second of all, there are a lot of ways one can "frame" this story, even if the stated motivation is true. NATURALLY the minister dad and the evangelical leaning WND want to make it sound like the horrible atheist book killed the good Christian son by killing his faith. On the other hand, I've been an atheist all my life and haven't killed myself. My son hasn't killed himself. Why not, instead, say that being raised in a fundamentalist household makes you especially prone to suicide when you are exposed to competing points of view?

I'm not trying to dogpile on the dad, who is obviously going through a great deal of pain and loss right now. I do, however, take exception to the dad using his legitimate pain as an excuse to lash out against a minority target that he probably presumes will not fight back. That crosses the line.

I don't know all the facts about the case at this point, so I can't say whether reading "The God Delusion" did or did not push Jesse Kilgore over the edge and drive him to suicide. I think the responsible thing would be to wait a bit and see if any more information comes out (so I'll probably put it on Google Alert). Regardless, the dad is acting like an opportunistic and bigoted ass.

Keith Kilgore weighed in on the Digg page about the story. Posting as chk555, Kilgore takes the opportunity to recite his extremely confused take on the book ("Also, Richard Dawkins admitted on DVD that he believes in intelligent design to Ben Stein in the movie Expelled. Instead of crediting the Creator, he credits 'space aliens.'" Uh?) The guy is clearly using his son's death to further a crusade that he had already been after all along. I'm sorry for his loss, but... seriously.


  1. Atheism is the favourite faith-scapegoat these days. This article in the Irish Independent (Via in response to the Atheist Bus advert campaign says it all, linking atheism to the following;

    That is a life without moral parameters; in which fathers walk away from their children because the state provides all welfare; in which relationships are casual, and a variety boyfriends and serial stepfathers move in; in which mothers spend the day smoking dope, drinking vodka and cruising for sex on the internet, while their children die with broken backs -- among filth and excrement, dead mice and pet snakes.

    As an atheist and a parent, this kind of thing pisses me off royally.


  2. I initially was willing to chalk up the absurdity of this story to Wing-Nut's poor and biased journalistic standards -- but then I read the actual words by the father, posting as CHK555. His thoughts and perceptions are so misguided I find it harder now to sympathize with him. Blaming others for his son's faults (and perhaps his own faults as a father) only worsens the effects such a tragedy has on everyone who hears this story. Perhaps his reaction is very human, but it merely stands as an example of how poorly fundamental Christianity, in times of tragedy, mitigates a human's base animal impulses -- such as the instinct to lash out when subjected to profound feelings of pain and hurt, and harm others regardless of their role in the matter. This father's reaction, while not profoundly so, is still quite wrong. He is merely adding shame to the memory of his son by reacting in such an immoral way.

  3. RedFerret: Amazing. Northern Ireland, the country where children have to have police escorts to walk to school because the Catholics and Protestants can't stop killing each other, and won't hesitate to target each other's children for a nanosecond...and they think we're the ones who have "no moral parameters." (Okay, maybe the paper was from plain old Ireland, but being fairly close to Belfast, someone ought to be aware of how reality works before publishing such contrafactual bilge.)

    You can, of course, put this down to the typical fearmongering and lack of self-awareness that goes hand in hand with being intensely religious, but that doesn't make it less offensive to thinking people.

    The interesting thing about this stupid dad's letter (and no, I'm not inclined to treat him with kid gloves in his "grief," as it's certain he wouldn't give the same sympathy to me) it what it unwittingly admits. To wit: that Christianity is peddling an inferior product, and if their beliefs cannot stand being challenged by facts without their interpreting it as an attack (and they interpret everything as an attack), then clearly, Christianity is not up to the task of preparing someone for life in the real world. Instead, it builds up a wall of delusion for the timid believer to hide behind, and when cracks appear in that wall to let the light of reality shine through, instead of understanding that this is a good thing, they shrivel from the light like movie vampires. It wasn't The God Delusion that caused this kid's suicide (assuming the father is being honest at all about the circumstances surrounding said suicide). Much more likely is that it was the realization that he'd been lied to all his life by his fundie upbringing, and that, at the cusp of adulthood, he simply didn't have any of the tools a well-adjusted adult needs to function in the intellectual marketplace. "Faith" is a feeble substitute for reason. Still, it's nothing to kill yourself over.

  4. Besides reading "The God Delusion", I bet the kid had also been playing Dungeons & Dragons and listening to rock music. That should drive anybody to suicide, I wonder how I managed not to blow my brains yet.

    I'm with Martin, I don't feel the least inclined to be nice to the kid's dad either.

  5. Rock and D&D, my ass.

    I'll bet you cash money he was playing EXALTED and listening to some contemporary faux-goth band like, oh - jeez, where do I start?

    That stuff'll get anybody.

  6. @martin
    and they think we're the ones who have "no moral parameters.

    Well, since god condones infantacide, slavery and genocide in the bible, but hates on homosexuals, they probably think their morals are just fine, thank you.

    I guess, according to standard religious "logic", killing lots of people, especially if they are the wrong color or religion, is just okee dokey, but to not kill someone, and actually insist that that person might have rights? That's a trip to hell for you, buddy boy!

  7. I am reminded of Matthew Murrey, the young lad so disillusioned by the lack of response from his god and the lack of fulfilment from his church he started shooting. He still committed suicide but took a few others with him.
    If Dawkins book made the boy realise his father had been lying to him all of his life and he was ill prepared to cope with such a major let down then, it may be callous of me, but I feel this boy's father has no one to blame but himself.

  8. Not wanting to set up a false dichotomy her, but I'll do it any way. Aether the father sincerely believes his son killed him self because he lost hes faith, or he is using hes sons death to score some chip shots agents atheists, the last one making hem a despicable asshole(I wouldn't put it past them to do something like that, I have found my self asking "How low can they go", and sadly it seems that there is now bottom in sight, yet.) The first (echoing some of Martin's points) making hem a sheety parent. these might seem a little harsh considering, but I find it hard to sympathies with a gay who implicitly blames me for something like this.


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